back to school – the good, the early and the need for a bottomless bank account

So, six weeks of summer school holidays are drawing to a close. Six weeks. Two thirds of a school term. Four boys. Christmas. Humidity. Heat.

Yes, that is a recipe for me to up my meds but this year, I don’t know, I’m full of anticipation, excitement and well, enthusiasm for the year ahead. I can not recall EVER feeling that way about a year ahead. No really. Normally it’s resignation, foreboding and grim determination. I am making sure I really enjoy this feeling, relishing it even for I know how quickly it can all go south.

And yes, last summer holidays were spent with me yelling at the children and the children being generally vile. These holidays had us tripping off to the beach at a moment’s notice, trips to the movies, spontaneous holidays at my Dad’s place, various catch-ups with friends and while there was quite the hiccup over Christmas and days when the children have done my head in and moments when I have desperately needed time out, I can confidently say these holidays have flown.

And so here we are.

Felix is back at school on Monday.

Oscar goes Tuesday, more on that in a moment.

Jasper goes up to school on Monday morning for his kindergarten assessment and then starts at 10am on Thursday.

Grover starts pre-school on Thursday (he’ll go two days a week Thurs-Fri this year, three days next year and then school in 2013).

I just had a phone call from one Mrs J – Oscar’s bus driver. He will be picked up and dropped off every day from school by Mrs J who tells me she’s been doing this for 21 years. About the best way to sum of Mrs J is to think of Patty or Selma, throw in the phrase she used: a short pencil is better than a long memory and there you have it. I imagine Mrs J has quite the fag habit from dealing with these kids for more than 20 years and is probably fairly partial to a stiff scotch at the end of each day. ┬áBless her.

But there is, of course, a catch when sponging off the tax payers for a government bus service. Oscar will get picked up each morning at … 6:50am. We’ve no idea when he’ll get dropped home as he is the first pick up in the morning and the last drop-off in the afternoon so I’m guessing he may be home before nightfall. Just.

Now this may have some parents moaning and groaning about how long a day that is for poor little Johnny/Clarabel but not us! A) Oscar is STOKED it’s a bus (14 seater apparently), B) Finally Oscar’s penchant for getting up at 5am will pay handsome dividends and C) it makes my mornings and indeed afternoons a HELL of a lot easier. Point C) is bad isn’t it. That I’m happy to have my kid out of the house so I can deal with the other three. But folks. You’ve gotta cut me some slack. Getting Oscar ready is a nightmare at the best of times. Having to have him ready super early – basically before everyone else is even awake – is ideal. No distractions, no hyper-stimulation, just get ready, have breaky, go and wait out the front. Awesome.

Of course, back to school also means highway robbery a trip to the shoe shop. Last year Felix wore through four yes FOUR pairs of cheap sneakers (aka joggers, trainers, runners) and Oscar went through two pairs. I decided this year to fork out the expense for the, well, more expensive ones in the vein hope they will withstand the daily assault my children seem to inflict on them.

Jasper got proper school shoes (as opposed to reinforced fuck-off stitched black sneakers to look like school shoes for Felix) and Oscar. Well. Oscar has two options:

1. To wear his AFOs (plastic leg splints which cover 2/3 of his lower legs and feet, aka superlegs) with cheap black sneakers from target and swelter all day (when his body does not process or withstand over-heating) or

2. To wear outrageously expensive highly supportive black Brooks sneakers.

For the last four years – ever since he’s had his superlegs – I have gone with option 1. So this year I went bugger it and went with option 2. Post surgery was the main reason – but also that he’s now in highschool and I want him to feel good about himself, not hot and about to pass out.

There are a few minor issues here – Oscar is now a men’s size 8 1/2 and Felix, at age 10? Felix is a men’s 9 1/2. You know what that means? You know, adult shoe size = adult shoe prices.

I’ll be raiding the kids’ money boxes for milk and bread money scrounging down the back of the lounge for loose change in the corner weeping.

End of an era

In two days time an era for this family will come to an end. A major chapter in Oscar’s life will finish as a whole new exciting one begins.

Starting school for a child with additional needs is a monumental undertaking. We started a good 18 months out from when it would finally happen. We desperately wanted him in a wonderful program offered by a specialist special needs primary school in a satellite class at a school literally a few blocks from our home. An anxious wait ended beautifully with two fabulous years in a program called Start Right. Indeed.

And yet, we had barely drawn breath and relaxed with that decision that the whole process had to start again with finding the best school for Oscar to then transition to. Unbelievably that school ended up being our local public primary school. He started there in Year 2, aged 8. (and look at how dinky and cute Felix was on his first day of school too!)

To say this school has gone above and beyond is an understatement. This school has treasured Oscar. They have seen him as ‘just’ another student in his year group all the while making the adjustments and allowances so many schools and anti-integration voices say are impossible. He has had the same opportunities and experiences as his peers plus more. He has been taught, loved and celebrated just as any child should be. They have regularly taken my breath away with their can-do attitude and soothed my worried heart through their zero-tolerance approach to bullying and their capacity to celebrate Oscar’s achievements as the Everest they sometimes are for our boy.

Tonight was Oscar’s Year 6 Farewell Dinner. This is a wonderful evening at the school, where the Year 5 and Year 6 students get all dressed up and have a good time.

I had been marvelling how unsentimental I’d been feeling about Oscar finishing primary school. I had put it down to the fact that Felix will still be there and Jasper is starting there next year. And then this happened:

Oscar’s Year 6 Farewell Dinner presentation from Kim at allconsuming on Vimeo.

I think it was the cheering that did it. Or maybe how he bounded up there. Who knows but once that happened I was a blubbering mess. Through the tears and snot and breaking voice I managed to get the teachers and Aides of Awesome who have taught Oscar at the school:

Our life? Full of wonderful people.

Two important questions

Having a child with special needs from Kim at allconsuming on Vimeo.

Just mixing it up with a wee video for you to watch. I KNOW, I’m so cutting edge.